January 16, 2012

Rabid Rewind: Rainn Wilson is Just 'Super'

starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, and Nathan Fillion
written & directed by James Gunn
Entertainment One (2011)

I wouldn't have thought Rainn Wilson could convincingly portray a superhero until I saw this movie. Rainn plays Frank, a short-order cook married to a gorgeous waitress (Liv Tyler) and living a rather dull, uneventful life. He's fine with that, though. Then his life falls apart when his wife falls back on her old drug addiction and leaves him for the town's drug lord (Kevin Bacon). It's then Frank has a vision from God--he's been experiencing visions and divine messages ever since he was a kid--who literally touches his brain and puts him on the path to becoming a superhero.

The best part of Frank's inspiration comes in the form of a low-rent Christian kids show about an evangelical superhero played by Nathan Fillion. Frank is a neophyte to superheroes though, and winds up seeking advice from the local comic book shop and the hyperactive store clerk (Ellen Page). Frank creates the alter-ego of The Crimson Bolt, sews together his own costume, thinks up a couple one-liners ("Shut up, crime!"), and brandishes a monkey wrench as his weapon of choice when he starts waylaying and assaulting random criminals in town. He gets his ass kicked in the process, but the near sadistic methods he uses to take down muggers, drug dealers, and pedophiles keep him going. The cartoonishness of bludgeoning someone with a wrench falls away instantly when he does his work, even dropping a cinder block on one thug that got a cringe out of me.

And if Rainn Wilson has this misguided vigilante streak in him, Ellen Page's character can be categorized as a psychopath. The sheer delight she takes as the Crimson Bolt's sidekick, Boltie, in doling out punishment to bad guys is frightening--and, honestly, a bit of a turn-on--in that "holy cow, she's insane" kind of way.

As for the bad guys, Kevin Bacon shows once again that he knows how to milk each scene for all its worth with these villainous characters he's played lately. I just wish there had been more time in the film to more closely explore Michael Rooker's henchman character, as well as the detective on the tale of the Crimson Bolt. If there's a fatal flaw to the film, it's that the supporting cast doesn't get quite enough time to shine.

Super is the kind of movie that Defendor should have been. It's a movie that looks at the idea of masked vigilantes, but better balances the comedy and dark elements to the subject matter. And Rainn Wilson's character is far more relatable, likeable, and less exploited than the one Woody Harrelson played in Defendor. Hell, I might go so far as to say I enjoyed this movie even more than Kick-Ass. It's a great hidden gem of a movie that any comic book fan or revenge flick buff should check out.


  1. Those are great comparisons (Defender, Kick Ass) and ones I also thought of while watching this film. I agree with your review. I loved the movie, but would have liked more time with the supporting cast as well.

    This is one I'll come back to again and again. The dark elements were done perfectly.

  2. I figure I'll have to watch it again some time. More likely to than with Defendor or Kick-Ass.